«There are some moments in life of each person, when you need to recharge your inner batteries. Just to see silver lining in your future and to increase your value for the world.
I felt like this at the end of my summer, after tiring hard-working period at my job. I felt eager to gain new studying experience after graduation. I wanted to communicate passionately and needed sharing my personal life experience with others.
So I decided to catch my luck and applied for youth exchange. It was almost immediate and extremely spontaneous decision. And I succeeded! I was on cloud nine, for sure 🙂 This moment, when you don’t believe it’s happening to you.
In advance, this decision was one of the best decisions in my past five years.
Why? From the first moment of meeting my national team and my first plane flight till the moment of farewells with our international group I felt like my lungs are filling up with fresh air.
We spent lots of remarkable moments together, but there were some things I remembered the most.
- Living outside. We were camping for 10 days in the raw. It was my first time doing it, and I never knew how it is. At the first time it was a struggle. I didn’t expected, but then I realized, that I am pretty comfortable and I can deal with it easily. Also, I was almost disconnected from internet. It made me anxious a bit, and I was really worried and surprised by this fact. I never thought I have internet addiction!
- Constant English speaking. Whether you want or not, you speak it most of the time. Whether you have just woke up and still sleepy, or even if you’re in shower 🙂 And you can hear a lot of beautiful accents, by the way.
- Multicultural communication. One of the most interesting activities during our time spent at youth exchange were intercultural evenings, when we shared our national customs and also delicious food. Also, we talked about our countries, traditions, religion, philosophy a lot during dinners and just free time. It was such a pleasure to find a lot in common between us and to overcome some ridiculous stereotypes!
- Team building activities. We did a lot of them. Trust falls, overcoming handmade obstacles together, blind walking, teamwork exercises. I never felt such support from other people. It’s a great pleasure to understand that there are lot of beautiful people out there in the world still, just ask for help!
- Diving into Georgian reality. We did very productive and exciting activities in Tbilisi and rural Kakheti region. For example, I enjoyed challenging myself to be a journalist, when we had a task to ask some questions about gender roles to locals in Tbilisi. People where extremely friendly and easy to communicate with. Especially, if you speak Russian :). I’ve heard some really touching life stories from them. There is a lot to think about after conversations like that. Also, we had amazing cultural experience in Kakheti village called Pona. We had about 15 different tasks, for example to milk a cow, to learn national dance, to play with local children, to ride a horse or to drive a tractor 🙂 We even had task to kiss a goat! People in village were surprisingly welcome. To my mind, we were an interesting amusement for them. At the end of the evening we found ourselves riding in the old soviet’s “ZIL” truck’s bodywork with local horse riders cortege 🙂
- Reflection moments. It was one of the most fulfilling practices during exchange sessions for me. We sat round in circle and shared how we felt about something we did the day or an hour before, during exchange activities. We described our current state of mind, drew pictures, picked up Dixit game cards and made associations with our psychological state. It was almost like psychologist’s session.
- Hiking experience. It was one of the most extreme and still amazing things I did in my entire life. We did it two times. First time I felt like I am a little child: adventurous and ready to go. Treasure hunting on the way was amazing! And this moment, when you’re reaching some point and you see beautiful Georgian nature: mountains, rivers, ancient buildings… So astonishing!
Second time was really extreme. We prepared a lot doing teambuilding activities to support each other mentally and physically. We didn’t know then, how helpful they would be. We intended to go out on night hiking in mountainous region. And just before we went out of our campsite, thunderstorm started.
I will not describe it fully. When we were leaving campsite, rain stopped and we sighed with a relief. But in the midst of our journey thunderstorm returned. We were scared, but no one showed it. We supported each other as hard as we could. Held each other’s hands, checked people who was lagging behind and supported nearest partner during hill climbing. After almost 2 hours under rain, when we were fully wet, we felt like: heck it all! A lot of people started to jump forward right through puddles, splashing it around, singing and laughing. It was the moment when you feel, that whatever happens in your life, you can be stronger than that.
During this last hiking we had a meditative moment. We reached that place in woods, we raised our heads up and saw clouds-free section of the sky. Starry sky was in breathtaking details… We were able to even see The Milky Way. We just stayed silently, blinded by that beauty, feeling us as parts of the universe. This moment illustrates my whole YE experience the most. Feeling that you live in a beautiful world. Feeling that you’re part of something big and valuable. Feeling that you want to make this gorgeous place even better.»
By Ekaterina Dobrilko
(Youth Exchange “Outdoor Society for Gender Equality”,
18 – 29 September 2017)